Yoga: Off the Mat and Into Your Life

Nov 7

By: Angelina Henninger DPT, Dillsburg, PA Center

Yoga has become one of the most popular exercise trends in the United States in the past 10 years.  Approximately 20 million Americans participate in some form of yoga, according to a recent poll (YJ 2012).

Among the health benefits associated with yoga: reduced stress; improved strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular function; injury prevention (AOA 2014). Significant research supports yoga’s effectiveness in reducing low back pain and disability while improving overall physical function (Hartfiel 2014).  Yet another recent study reported that participants who performed six months of yoga therapy displayed significant reductions in pain, disability and depression (NCCAM, 2013).

These health benefits vary by style of yoga practiced.  If you are interested in taking up yoga, it’s important to find out which style meets your needs and fitness level.  Yoga styles often are listed in the traditional Hindu terminology and can be confusing to a beginner.

Here is a snapshot of three of the most popular yoga styles to guide your journey:

Hatha:  This is great for beginners as it includes a gentle introduction to basic yoga postures with a primary focus on coordinating breathing with movement.  Hatha can relieve stress and is an excellent choice for someone who wants to begin a gentle exercise regimen without the intensity and sweat related to other routines.

Vinyasa: It means “flow” and involves a more vigorous practice in which participants are guided through transitions between poses, resulting in continuous movement.  This style focuses on improving strength, flexibility and balance and is a good option for someone already participating in some form of exercise as it pushes your physical limits.  Because of the fluid nature of vinyasa, no two classes are the same, allowing for variety in your exercise regimen.

Bikram: Often called “hot yoga,” this style consists of 26 standard poses performed in the same order in a room heated to 95 to 100 degrees.  This environment is designed to release toxins and allow for a deeper stretch of already heated muscles.  Bikram is ideal for participants looking to sweat and who desire structure and consistency.

Anyone looking to begin a yoga exercise routine should consult a health care provider prior to starting. And don’t forget that moderation in all activities is key to a healthy lifestyle.